ACHS Board of Directors

ACHS’s Board of Directors is responsible for establishing policies to ensure the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of student learning programs and services and the financial stability of the institution. Once the Board reaches a decision, it acts as a whole.

ACHS’s Board of Directors:

  • Establishes policies consistent with the mission statement to ensure the quality, integrity, and improvement of student learning programs and services and the resources necessary to support them. The Board has ultimate responsibility for educational quality, legal matters, and financial integrity.
  • Reviews the Board’s bylaws and policies specifying the Board’s size, duties, responsibilities, structure, and operating procedures. The Board regularly evaluates its policies and practices and revises them as necessary. The Board acts in a manner consistent with its policies and bylaws.
  • Reviews Board development and new member orientation.
  • Conducts self-evaluation processes to assess Board performance.
  • Abides by the code of ethics.
  • Is informed about and involved in the accreditation process.

Learn more about our prestigious Board of Directors:

Dorene Petersen

Dorene Petersen, BA, Dip.NT, Dip.Acu, RH (AHG), President

American College of Healthcare Sciences, was founded in 1978 by Dorene Petersen, in New Zealand, and later she opened additional branches in Australia and Hong Kong. Today, though, ACHS is housed entirely on the U.S. campus located in Portland, Oregon.

In May 2009 the College officially changed its name from the Australasian College of Health Sciences to the American College of Healthcare Sciences. The name change celebrates the College's 20th anniversary of operations in the United States and better represents the College's long-term goals as an Institute of Higher Learning in the U.S.

President Dorene Petersen holds a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from Otago University, New Zealand, a Diploma in Natural Therapeutics from the South Pacific College of Natural Therapies in Auckland, New Zealand, and is a certified acupuncturist with specialized training in Chinese herbal medicine and moxibustion. She has also completed part one of the Advanced International Training Program in essential oils at Purdue University.

In addition to her work with the College, Dorene teaches courses for ACHS and leads the annual ACHS Summer School study-abroad programs to Greece, which explore holistic health, Mediterranean nutrition, therapeutic aromatherapy and distillation, among other topics. She is an eCollege certified online instructor and is a faculty member meeting the qualifications prescribed by the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization. She stays abreast of current methodologies through various trainings with the Distance Education Training Council and by attending annual conferences about online learning, educational technology and instructional design. Dorene regularly lectures about medical herbalism, aromatherapy, iridology, and natural body care, including appearances at: The South Pacific College of Natural Therapies (NZ), the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM), the Aesthetics Institute, the Birthingway School of Midwifery, and Western States University, all in Portland Oregon.

In addition, Dorene has appeared on various TV and radio shows, including Good Morning Oregon, the National Radio Show Voice of America, and KPTV Better Portland, and has presented papers at: The Herb Growers and Marketers Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts; at the International Scientific Aromatherapy Symposium in Grasse, France; and at the International Herb Association Conference in Portland, Oregon. Her articles about aromatherapy have appeared in publications worldwide, including: Alternative Therapies in Clinical Practice, The News Quarterly, Making Scents, The Herbarist, the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal, Massage Magazine, the Aromatherapy Registration Council newsletter, and on

Dorene currently serves as Chair of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC), an independent, nonprofit organization that administers the national examination in aromatherapy to ensure minimum standards of training and safety knowledge of registered aromatherapists. Petersen is also a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. In 2009, Dorene was awarded the Professional Service Award from the International Herb Association for her outstanding contributions to the herb industry.

Dorene is active with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC, formerly DETC), and chaired the DETC annual meeting and conference in Seattle in 2006. She is also a member of the Research and Educational Standards Subcommittee of the DEAC.

Erika Yigzaw

Erika Yigzaw, B.Com, LL.B. (Hons), Public Member

Erika Yigzaw holds a Bachelors (B.Com.) in Commerce (Economics major) from the University of Otago; an LL.B. (first professional law degree) from the University of Otago Law School; and has completed the Master Gardener program through Oregon State University. As the former Chief Institutional Officer and Chief Strategy Officer at ACHS, she led the initial migration of online courses to WebCT in 1998 and began working in distance education while still in High School in 1986. Before joining ACHS USA in 1997, Erika spent three years practicing corporate commercial law as a barrister and solicitor with one of New Zealand’s largest commercial law firms, Bell Gully Buddle Weir, in the Wellington and then Auckland offices. She advised several multinational dietary supplement companies and was involved with mergers and acquisitions and intellectual property issues. She also has research experience from the University of Otago Law Library, where she worked during law school, and as a researcher at International Stockbroking firm Buddle Wilson where she worked during her undergraduate studies. She has specialized in compliance and academics in higher education, including outcomes assessment, presenting on outcomes assessment at the 2006 Fall Workshop of the DEAC, and on distance learning technology, presenting at the 2010 Annual Conference and Meeting of the DEAC and delivering the keynote address on Top 12 Technologies for 2012 to the DEAC Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Erika has been active on many DEAC committees and task forces, including on outcomes assessment and technology, and was been an active member of the DEAC Business Standards Committee from 2008 to 2014. She is a DEAC Site Evaluator and has served on 15 site visits for initial or reaccreditation as either the Education Standards Evaluator, Business Standards Evaluator, or Chair. In 2012, she received the Distinguished Recognition Award from DETC for her work in advancing the field of distance education. In 2017 she received the Annual Innovation Award from DEAC for her contributions to innovation in distance learning technologies and service. 

Erika has extensive variety of experience in distance education methodology and administration, specializing in online program teaching and administration since 1998. She has experience both as a student (taking programs by distance learning in Spanish through New Zealand Correspondence Schools and eCommerce through Portland Community College) and as a professor at ACHS since 1999. She was the team leader in taking the college’s courses online in 1999 to WebCT and migrating to eCollege in 2001 (which later became Pearson LearningStudio). She was a member of the Pearson eCollege Product Advisory Board and has reviewed texts for McGraw Hill. In 2016, she led a team of ACHS stakeholders, including faculty, students, alumni, and administration, in selecting and then migrating the college from Pearson LearningStudio to the Canvas platform. She stays abreast of current methodologies through various conferences and courses with the DEAC, participating in accreditation site visits at other institutions, attending a wide variety of industry conferences, including the Center For Internet Technology and Education (CITE) conference from 2002-2012; The University Business Technology Conference (UBTech) (where she was invited to and participated in the University Business Program for the Top 35 CIOs in Education). Erika is currently completing the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Leadership Assessment Academy, a highly competitive year-long program, where she is completing a project on competency-based education. She is also completing a Masters of Education in Instructional Design with Western Governor’s University. In 2017, she was invited to and attended the Competency-Based Education Network Exchange by Chair Laurie Dodge and the invited to and funded to attend the Online Learning Consortium’s Accelerate conference and workshop “Introduction New Technologies to Your Campus” by the New Media Consortium, facilitating a Gates Foundation grant. 

In addition to her experience in law and the higher education industry, Erika has extensive experience in the health and wellness industry. She is fourth generation aromatherapist and herbalist; served as an advisor to the Aromatherapy Registration Council since its inception in 1997 and was volunteer webmaster for the nonprofit group for 12 years. She has been a speaker at International Herb Association (IHA) and Herb Growers and Marketers Network (HGMN) conferences on legal issues in the natural health industry. Erika owns a lavender farm in Sherwood Oregon, where she hosts workshops on distilling essentials oils. 

Debbie Parigian

Debbie Parigian, B.A., CPA, Public Member

Debbie Parigian has several years' experience working as a part-time CFO for growing companies and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the College.

Debbie has worked with several educational companies and software development companies over the past 20 years, increasing their financial strength to assist with growth strategies. She holds a bachelor's degree in business and accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant. Debbie also has served as a board member, founder, investor, and consultant with several emerging growth companies.

"I have had a lifelong involvement with health and wellness," says Parigian. "My experience-health and financial-will allow me to successfully help ACHS ensure strong, sustainable growth and development of the cutting-edge online classroom education our students have come to rely on."

Clyde Jensen

Clyde B. Jensen, Ph.D., Public Member

Dr. Clyde B. Jensen is distinguished as the only person to have served as a leader and professor (physiology and pharmacology) in colleges of allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, oriental medicine, and chiropractic. He has coined the phrase "continuum cleft" to describe the gap that separates conventional and complementary health care and published concerning the financial and qualitative costs of the cleft to American health care consumers. Dr. Jensen has acknowledged that it is his personal mission to help "mend the cleft" by fostering collaboration among health care professions and their educational institutions.


Last updated 8/8/19